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Supporters Look at All Avenues to Move Spectrum Bill Supporters Look at All Avenues to Move Spectrum Bill

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Tech / TECHNOLOGY

Supporters Look at All Avenues to Move Spectrum Bill

How will spectrum legislation get passed?(Alfonso de Tomas/Shutterstock)

November 22, 2011

Now that it’s clear there will be no super-committee deal to attach spectrum legislation to, supporters are looking for alternative avenues to move the legislation by the end of the year. Just about any bill with a chance to pass Congress will likely do.

“Supporters will look for any moving vehicle to stick it on,” said Veronica O’Connell, vice president of congressional affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association. 

After failing to attach spectrum legislation to a debt-ceiling deal in August, lawmakers and some industry and public-safety groups had been urging the congressional super committee to tackle spectrum legislation in its grand deal.

 

In particular, the Consumer Electronics Association and other industry groups had been pushing the super committee to include legislation authorizing auctions to entice broadcasters to give up some of their spectrum, which could raise several billion for deficit reduction and free up more spectrum for wireless broadband.

But with the collapse of the super committee, industry groups, lawmakers, and others following the issue say they are keeping all their options open. 

“We just want it to move,” said Kevin Richards, TechAmerica’s senior vice president of federal government affairs. 

Richards said one possible avenue for moving spectrum legislation is a bill to extend some expiring business tax breaks, such as the research-and-development tax credit.

Other possibilities include attaching spectrum measures to an appropriations bill to fund several government agencies and departments for the rest of fiscal 2012 or possible legislation to extend jobless benefits and a payroll-tax reduction.  

However, Jot Carpenter, vice president for government affairs with the wireless industry group CTIA, said there are procedural hurdles to attaching spectrum legislation to appropriations legislation. “It’s easier to suggest it than to pull it off,” he said. 

The Senate Commerce Committee approved spectrum legislation in June. And the House Energy and Commerce Committee has been working on its own version of spectrum legislation. But the panel’s top Republicans have been unable to reach a deal with Democrats because of a disagreement over the public safety spectrum issue.

Public safety groups have been pushing Congress to reallocate a swath of spectrum known as the D-block to them so they can create a national broadband network. The Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Republicans have opposed giving the D-block to public safety and would prefer to stick with current law, which requires that the spectrum be auctioned. 

Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, said in October that his goal was to move spectrum legislation by the end of the year. His panel could hold a markup on spectrum legislation as soon as Dec. 1, although the subcommittee did not respond to a request for comment on when it might schedule a markup. 

“We are certainly preparing as if he [Walden] is going to keep that commitment and move forward with regular order,” Carpenter said. 

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also said he will continue looking for ways to pass his spectrum legislation. 

“This bill would not only reduce the federal deficit by at least $6.5 billion but also provide first responders with a life-saving communications network and spur billions of dollars in economic investment,” Rockefeller said in a statement late Monday. “Winning ideas like S.911 cannot keep falling victim to this partisan stubbornness. I will continue to pursue all avenues to get S.911 enacted this year.”

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